Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Growing Exotic Herbs

I remember the first time I came across curry leaves in an Indian market--those potatoes were a revelation! I could finally have dishes like in my favorite South Indian restaurant. But now I don't have to seek them out in Indian markets, because I am now the proud owner of a rapidly growing curry tree.
These plants are not easy to find. Mine were purchased from Logee's, where they are currently not available.
The second time was the charm, as my first purchase was in winter and the plant did not make it in the tough indoor winter climate (combined with some lack of attention on my part). This one came in spring and it proved to be a much more favorable time for acclimating the plant. I made sure to re-pot it as instructed, and now I am carefully tending it on my patio, where I like to walk by and rub a leaf to release the aroma. I don't dare harvest any yet because I want this one to thrive.
My other "exotic" herbs are for Thai cuisine. I'd grow lemongrass even if it was not edible, simply for the gorgeous leaves and heavenly scent. This plant will outgrow this pot by the end of summer, but I plan on harvesting the stems and maybe seeing if it will survive the winter inside.

Wild limes (Citrus hystrix) have previously been known as "kaffir" limes, but because that is an ethnic slur is some parts of the world, I'm going to refer to these as wild lime leaves.
Earlier this season, I grew fenugreek, and though I harvested some seed, I was not able to enjoy the leaves (methi) as I intended. I think it prefers spring and fall temps, so I'll be trying again.
My cumin experiment was also a bust--it did not thrive in a clay pot that baked it on the patio. It will get a dedicated spot next summer.
It's not exactly exotic, but I'm also growing caraway. It's a biennial, so it will flower and produce seed next year. This corner also holds an inherited rose, sorrel, chives, and flat-leaf parsley and cilantro reside to the left of the caraway. A potted rhubarb sits in the corner waiting for me to prepare it a bed.
It's essential to have a supply of the common herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, etc., because who wants to pay the exorbitant prices for tiny bunches of those when you need them? But it's also fun to make room for some less common herbs like these, along with lemon balm, lemon verbena, pineapple sage--you can't have too many! I ordered seeds recently, so by next year I'll also have Thai basil, Vietnamese mint, culantro--a summer heat-tolerant herb that tastes like cilantro.


  1. "culantro--a summer heat-tolerant herb that tastes like cilantro"

    Now that's something I want to hear more about!

  2. I'll let you know Mal. It looks nothing like cilantro. There is also Papaloquelite, which also survives summer.

  3. What I've planted on my garden are blood flower, and they spread really fast and I really love the flowers and the sweet taste of inner stem extract. Can you tell me how long will it take to plant a Thai tulsi because I want to try it too since I read about it's nature and how good it is? Thanks in Advance!

  4. I have lots of milkweed, too, I had never heard it called blood flower before. I love the seed pods.
    I'm going to wait until next year to start the tulsi, so sorry I can't give any info.